Oahu, Hawaii has a reputation for being the ultimate tropical paradise, and if you have ever been there, then you know that this reputation is well deserved. None of the Hawaiian islands are that big, but they are all packed with unique and amazing things to see and do for everyone from beach bums to adrenaline junkies. Not only is Hawaii a geographic dreamland, but the Hawaiian people show what a gem Polynesian culture really is.
Curious what you should not miss on Oahu? Keep reading to discover the best things to do in Oahu.
Where to Stay on Oahu
We stayed in the Courtyard by Marriott Waikiki Beach Hotel. We ended up loving our hotel! The location was right by the beach and price was perfect! You can book and check out current prices here. Staying right on Waikiki Beach was a dream!
Best Things to do on Oahu
There is no way to choose just 11 things to do in Hawaii, so this post focuses on the top 11 things to do on Oahu (the most commonly visited island).
1. Snorkel at Hanauma Bay
Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay is a must do in Oahu. This beautiful bay features is an easy and excellent location to snorkel. There are over 400 species of fish, and an abundance of (my favorite) sea turtles. Make sure if you snorkel you have a waterproof phone case (I have this case from amazon and it is pretty good for what I need it for) and a good dry bag for your electronics. This is my favorite dry bag. I never travel without it.
Note – even the newest waterproof iPhones can not be used in the ocean. Salt water will destroy your phone so make sure to put it in a case. Better to be safe than sorry.
2. Waterfalls at Ko’olau Mountain Range
This mountain range was formed by ancient volcanoes erupting. Today, there are dramatic cliffs left on the Eastern side of Oahu. On a rainy day water pools at the top and you can see spectacular waterfalls coming down the cliffs.
3. Cliff Jumping at La’ie Point
While visiting Oahu there will be lot of places one can cliff jump, and some are actually pretty dangerous. The one where I safely jumped was La’ie Point on the North Shore.
4. North Shore Surfing
The Northern shore of the island is not nearly as developed as other parts of Oahu, but should also be on your list. Each winter the shore is pounded with 30 ft tall waves that make it a surfers’ paradise.
It is easy and fun to spot professional surfers riding the waves all day. Even though Claire insisted I remain a spectator I tried to ride the waves myself; this was a big mistake as I got tossed like a rag doll.
Interested in shark diving on the North Shore of Hawaii? I found this awesome tour where you enter a cage and get to see sharks up close. Click here for the tour prices and additional info.
5. Visit Pearl Harbor
On December 7, 1941 Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. This devastating attack pulled the United States into World War II, which ultimately changed the entire face of the globe.
The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is a sobering reminder of what we have come through. Though this changes the tone from the rest of Hawaiian vacation, it needs to be included.
6. Hike Diamond Head
This mountain/volcanic crater is one of the best spots in Hawaii for a quick hike. It is only about a mile long and not difficult (seriously Grandmas do it). Once at the summit you have breathtaking views of Waikiki and the endless blue ocean.
7. Stairway to Heaven Oahu
Ha’iku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven) Hike is now illegal due to private land ownership and liability issues, though I know some people are still choosing to do it. I include it because it is something you will hear about when planning a trip to Hawaii. The metal stairs and ladders create a challenging but amazing hike.
8. Surf Lessons at Waikiki Beach
Waikiki is one of the most popular Oahu attractions. This is the busiest tourist spot in Hawaii. The white sand, clear blue water, and never ending small waves make this a perfect spot for beginners to become a grommet (supposedly this means beginning surfer). Great instructors make this possible for even the least athletically inclined.
9. Polynesian Cultural Center (Best luau in Oahu)
The Polynesian Cultural Center is the perfect place to experience traditional Polynesian Culture. They have recreations of traditional villages and an amazing luau with native Polynesian dancers. Honestly, it is probably the best luau in Oahu.
10. Take an Open Door Helicopter Tour of Oahu
Get your adrenaline pumping with this 60 minute open door helicopter tour over Oahu (if you prefer to have the doors you can do that to).
With this tour you will fly over Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, North Shore’s Banzai Pipeline, the Chinaman’s Hat, Makapu’u Lighthouse, the Sacred Falls, Kaneohe Bay and so much more!
They will even give you a complimentary DVD of the flight afterwards. This is one of the best-rated tours on Oahu.
11. Dole Plantation Hawaii Tour
Some people think the Dole Pineapple plantation Hawaii is dull, but I loved learning about the agricultural history of Hawaii, getting lost in the garden maze (like a corn maze, but bigger), and the samples of fresh island fruit (the fruit samples alone make it worth the stop).
12. Zipline and Rope Bridges Through the Rainforest
Though there are many places in Hawaii that you can zipline above and climb up platforms via rope bridges through the dense rainforest canopy. Climb Works is one of the best. They feature ziplines, atv rides, rappelling, and suspension bridges.
13. Watch the Sunset at Sunset Beach
The best place to watch sunset on Oahu is Sunset Beach on North Shore. (One of the best places anyway, there are so many!) In the winter season, Sunset beach is also known for the big wave surfing, a world-acclaimed surfing spot.